Budget for Royal B.C. Museum facility balloons to $270M

Drawing of the Royal B.C. Museum collections and research building planned for Colwood, B.C. (Government of B.C. - image credit)
Drawing of the Royal B.C. Museum collections and research building planned for Colwood, B.C. (Government of B.C. - image credit)

The new Royal B.C. Museum collections and research building set to be built in the Victoria suburb of Colwood is now projected to cost almost $100 million more than the original estimate, according to figures released by the B.C. government.

The new price tag is $270 million, up from the $177 million projected in the B.C. budget two years ago. The completion date has also been pushed back a year to 2026.

According to a government release, "the new budget reflects the hot construction market during the pandemic, along with global inflation, which has caused significant pressures to projects around the world, including the escalating costs of materials and labour."

Construction of the 15,200-square-metre building, which will serve as a satellite facility to the Royal B.C. Museum in downtown Victoria, is supposed to begin this summer.

Opposition Liberal House Leader Todd Stone said the NDP government should cut its losses and cancel plans for the Colwood facility.

"I wish I was surprised in learning that the collections facility is so much over budget," Stone said.

"Look, there's virtually an empty museum in Victoria ... there's an empty field out in Colwood. We're saying to the government, scrap this new collections facility entirely and dedicate those dollars to an appropriate refurbishment and modernization of the existing facility in Victoria and call it a day."

Last June, then-premier John Horgan announced the province was suspending the controversial $789 million plan to demolish and rebuild the main site of the Royal B.C. Museum after a public outcry over the cost.

Then-tourism minister Melanie Mark defended the plan, describing the main museum building, which was built in 1968, as not functional, seismically unsafe, filled with hazardous materials like asbestos and lead, and inaccessible to people with disabilities.

Parts of the museum have been closed in recent years as officials move to decolonize exhibits. Last week, a totem pole taken from the Nuxalk Nation near Bella Coola more than a century ago was removed from the museum and repatriated.

The government release said some items currently housed at the museum are at risk from flooding, including archives, early provincial maps, and "rare and priceless artworks, including watercolours from the 1700s [and] several paintings by Emily Carr."